31 October 2019


Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:14-15, NIV; context.
After years of reading Ephesians on the "whole armor of God" (and hearing sermons, reading commentaries, and so on), last Sunday I finally paid attention to one word that has always slipped by me: the readiness, or preparedness, that comes from the gospel of peace.

It's easy for me to see why I skipped that word. The structure of the other metaphors in Ephesians 6:12-16 are crisp two-word associations:

belt -- truth
breastplate -- righteousness
shield -- faith

... but it's not "shoes -- peace," even though my eyes tended to make that contraction.

Different translations into English vary on whether we're supposed to emphasize readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace, or the readiness that comes from that gospel, but either way I find this specific quality fascinating. For myself, I interpret this passage as a call to be alert, attentive, available, to make the connections between the evil we witness and -- more and more as we gain practice -- apply the peaceable gospel to our situation.

After all, the whole context of these "armor" metaphors is our struggle against the spiritual forces of evil -- a struggle that is not against a human enemy, according to Ephesians, even though recorded history shows how we habitually ascribe evil to our flesh-and-blood "enemies" and miss the larger struggle entirely.

Looking around at our painfully divided world, torn apart by racism, nationalism, class warfare, involuntary migration, and environmental damage (abetted by corporate indifference and popular complacency), it is amazing how directly the whole New Testament challenges our number one primordial sin: the ways we objectify each other, and over time, the ways those patterns of objectification solidify into evil structures. Early on, the letter to the Ephesians applies the gospel of peace to these old patterns:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Ephesians 2:13-17, NIV.
What does "readiness" to apply the gospel of peace in our time and place look like for you, for me? I hope we will be less content to jump to convenient conclusions about the obvious villains our politicians or activists want us to hate. Will we be more ready to do the hard work of diagnosing the structures that provide the controls and incentives for those agents of division?

What does this "readiness" mean for our own division of labor in the church? Are there experiments in nonviolence that we need to support, or start? Are there prophets among us, who have insights into the way our structures and traditions and habits become corrupt, and whom we need to encourage -- first of all by listening to them? If you, reading this, are one of those prophets or experimenters, tell us how you are connecting the gospel of peace to the Lamb's War against bondage. How can the church as a whole become more ready to support you?

Update: Our kitties have made it another week. They are active and affectionate, but don't seem to be putting on weight. Today we took them to a veterinarian who operates a free clinic for stray cats and dogs. He confirmed that they're underweight, and sent us home with a bottle of antibiotic medicine and a set of needles. Both cats yelped mightily upon receiving their first shots, but they seem to have forgiven us.

The veterinarian also suggested that the markings on their little snouts could be fungus or some other effect of not having their faces properly groomed in their orphan days.

Last night, for the first time, the larger of the two kittens snuck into my cot while I was sleeping, and nestled against my back. Luckily the cot is so narrow that I could not have rolled over and endangered him. I never anticipated that part of my role as a Christian Peacemaker would be serving as surrogate mommy cat! Right now, as I type, they're in their usual end-of-day configuration, curled up together and enjoying the heat from an electric heater, waiting patiently for their last meal of the day.

Mike Farley: To "sit in a quiet room alone" seems not only futile, but unbearable.

Becky Ankeny is learning how to be simply human. (Also read the following post.)

Two different takes on trends in church-going attendance among younger adults: Christine Emba. Rick Snedeker.

Telegram survives in Russia -- but for how long?

Michael McFaul: There is no deep state in the United States of America. Instead, what I’ve seen is a deeply dedicated state.

U.S. House of Representatives resolution on impeachment procedures. (It passed today.)

Jackie Venson will find a way.

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